Counting Crows And Adam Duritz Are Finally Cool

by Noiz 11. June 2015 19:24

Counting Crows And Adam Duritz Are Finally Cool

The Counting Crows begin the summer of 2015 on the road in Europe.  Their tour of the United States doesn’t begin until July 30.  That night they’ll be in Miami, Florida for a gig at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater.

They will be meandering around the continental U.S. through the first third of October.  The last date on their calendar is Oct. 11 at the Zoo Amphitheatre in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

Get this…

The Counting Crows will be in New York City on Aug. 18, Boston on Aug. 23, Chicago on Sept. 12, and Houston on Oct. 8.

The Crows will be at Red Rocks on Sept. 16.

The opening acts for most shows will be Citizen Cope and Hollis Brown.

Furthermore…

There are 38 Counting Crows concerts scheduled between July 30 and Oct. 11 and not one is booked in Canada.  The band has no animosity for the Great White North it’s just that they have already toured that providences.

From April 28 through May 23, The Counting Crows played 16 concerts at a variety of venues from St. Johns to Vancouver, B.C.

The Counting Crows tour is in support of their 2014 opus, Somewhere Under Wonderland.  It’s their first studio album since 2012 (Underwater Sunshine) and their first studio album of original material since 2008 (Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings).

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The Crows have always been one of those “in between” bands.  When they debuted in 1993 with the album August and Everything After you were left scratching your head over whether or not it was cool to like “The Counting Crows.”

They weren’t grunge (which was big at the time), but they still sounded alternative enough to be played on college radio.  They were sort of a poor man’s R.E.M.

At least, that’s how you acted in public.  In private, you cranked up “Mr. Jones” every time it came on the radio and you sang along at the top of your lungs. 

Remember…

Back then if you wanted to hear a song you either had to own it or you had to get lucky and be paying attention to the radio or MTV when they gave it a spin.

The reason for their in between status is twofold.

One, as I alluded to earlier, their sound isn’t “hard” or “loud.”  You might actually find their 2003 best of album in your aunt’s music collection.

The second reason, and the main reason, is frontman Adam Duritz. 

Here’s the scoop…
While every guy wants Duritz’s iconic dreadlocks no guy will actually admit to it.  He strikes one as the San Francisco version of John Mayer.

You know the type of jerk.  He sings sensitive songs to girls after making them barbequed kale.  But when the chicks aren’t around he’s listening to Metallica and eating Hot Pockets.

Admit it!  Since coming onto the music scene, you thought the same thing, or something real similar, about Duritz (at least once).

Recently…

In an article published on musicradar.com, Duritz lists the “10 records that changed [his] life.”  This list is the type of pabulum that makes you want to drop kick the lead singer off the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s not that he picked bad albums—they’re all great—it’s just that his list is a little pretentious.

He picked albums you’d expect to be on a list of albums picked by an artist.  It’s like he’s trying to be “cool.”

For example…

He selected De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising, Prince’s Dirty Mind, both Big Star albums, Richard & Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out The Lights, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and of course, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

Like I said, those are great albums, but we all saw them coming. 

Now, let’s be honest…
We all love Three Feet High but we listen to Licensed to Ill. 

Dirty Mind is the Prince album we’re supposed to like but the Prince album we actually like is Purple Rain. 

Miles Davis is everyone’s favorite jazz musician but come on!  No one listens to jazz.

And Pet Sounds is cool but Revolver is cooler.

Of course…

When Duritz says “record” he actually means “vinyl record.”

“Now when you hear a record you can buy it online for the most part.  When I was a kid I'd read about records but I couldn't always find them because vinyl often went out of print.” — Adam Duritz

Duritz is a huge music fan and understands the pure joy of finding that one piece of vinyl you don’t have on your shelf. 

I can’t talk “hair” with Duritz but I can talk music.  We can discuss the thrill of buying vinyl. 

Also…

We can discuss why he picked R.E.M.’s Chronic Town instead of Reckoning.  I’ve own Reckoning for more than 30 years and I still spin it once a week.

It appears that we were wrong about Duritz.  He’s not a douche bag like we feared.  He’s just a music lover with awesome hair (and a knack for writing catchy tunes).

Duritz is also awesome at crowd banter.  Talking to the audience between songs has become a lost art.  Duritz is quite adroit at it.

Back…
In the early 1990s, when we were all younger and trying to impress Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and Cameron Crowe, we didn’t know what to make of the Crows and dismissed them.

Times have changed.

Now, in 2015, the band’s fan base doesn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about The Counting Crows.  All they care about is whether or not they can get a babysitter for the upcoming Counting Crows concert and if their DVR have enough room to record the shows they’re going to miss.

The Counting Crows are fun.  Their songs are infectious and they’ve matured into a great live act.  They’re a band you’ll like more in person then blaring from your iPod… or your record player.

The petty things that kept us smirking and rolling our eyes when the Counting Crows were mentioned in the company of our “cool” friends has gone the way of staying out past midnight, doing shots, and smoking jazz cigarettes.

In other words, the Counting Crows are finally cool… well, at least for people who no longer care about being cool anymore.

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Ten Reasons To Love Major League Soccer

by Noiz 5. June 2015 12:16

Ten Reasons To Love Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer is now one of the sports world’s hottest tickets.

Do you know that the average attendance for an MLS game is higher than the average attendance for NBA and NHL games? 

In the first two months of the current MLS season attendance is up 11 percent.

Soccer, which was once a sport that wasn’t just disliked by the American public but excoriated, is now on fire.  MLS is no longer the red-headed stepchild of American sports leagues. 

Sure, it’s still fifth in popularity behind football, baseball, basketball, and hockey—and soccer will never be the top sport in the U.S. (football is too engrained and too much of a quasi-religion).   But now is a great time to get interested in America’s version of the world’s game.

Below, Clickitticket lists ten reasons to love Major League Soccer.  If you have no inkling to watch an MLS match, either live or on television, you will after reading this article.

MLS Business Model
It wasn’t that long ago that MLS was losing money like it was a country on the Aegean Sea.  Now, the league is profitable.  Well, at least 10 of the league’s 19 teams are making more money than they are losing.  Even better news from the bean counters: the average franchise is worth more than $100 million.

How did the league do this when less than a decade ago the average value of a MLS franchise was less than $40 million?  The league has a great business model.  Each team is owned and controlled by league investors, meaning each player is paid by the MLS, meaning player salaries are kept reasonable, meaning the MLS has been built to last.

Avaya Stadium
Avaya Stadium is a soccer-specific arena that’s home to the San Jose Earthquakes.  The venue holds 18,000 soccer fans and is one of the best places to watch a MLS game—there’s not a bad seat in the house. 

Avaya Stadium is cloud-enabled, has a double-sided video scoreboard, a two-acre fan zone, and the largest outdoor bar in North America.  The stadium also has 882 solar panels that produce power for every soccer game.  Best of all, this amazing park was built for a mere $100 million.  That’s not bad for being located in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Check out this amazing stadium when the Earthquakes battle the Galaxy on Aug. 28 or when the Earthquakes take on the Dynamo on July 10.

Soccer-Specific Venues
Piggy backing on the Avaya Stadium entry is Major League Soccer’s penchant for soccer-specific venues.  These intimate and cozy venues make watching soccer a whole lot of fun.  Instead of playing in a half empty football stadium, teams have built smaller venues they can actually fill.  Also, these smaller venues have a much better atmosphere (see Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers).

Not all teams play in soccer-specific venues.  There are 12 soccer-specific stadiums currently used by MLS teams.  Some clubs, like the Seattle Sounders and Orlando City SC, make football stadiums work.  Others, like the New England Revolution and D.C. United, who respectively play at Gillette Stadium and RFK Stadium, do not.

Go West
The balance of power in MLS isn’t on the east coast but on the west coast.  The top three most valuable MLS franchises border the Pacific rather than the Atlantic Ocean.  The Seattle Sounders, who attract the most fans of any MLS franchise, are worth $175 million.  They are followed by the L.A. Galaxy at $170 million and the Portland Timbers at $141 million (according to the latest numbers by Forbes).  The New York Red Bulls are ranked sixth at $114 million.

The Sounders attract more fans than a summer day in Phoenix.  They average 44,000 attendees a game.  The Galaxy is second with around 22,000.  And the Timbers, who play in the tiny city of Portland, Oregon, welcome nearly 21,000 a game, come in third.  The west coast loves them some soccer.

Irony
Soccer is the number one sport for most of the world but it’s not number one in the United States.  Yet, countries where soccer is king are spending big bucks to partner with the MLS.  It seems a bit counterintuitive but foreign businesses are finding America’s top soccer league very attractive.  

For example, MLS has struck a deal with a Chinese digital sports provider to broadcast games and Ethihad Airways, which is based in the Arabian Gulf, is the league’s official airline partner.  This means you can fly Ethihad Airways to Beijing and watch the LA Galaxy host the New York City FC or the Sounders FC versus Timbers on the internet.

Homegrown Boys
I was hesitant to include this entry because I read some pretty unsavory things when NASCAR started attracting foreign-born drivers.  Yet, there is a big difference between NASCAR and MLS.  NASCAR is the premiere stock car circuit on the planet and one of the biggest race car leagues in the world.  The MLS is nowhere near the top of its respective field; it doesn’t have to be all inclusive.

MLS teams have a certain number of roster slots they can fill with international players.  These slots can be traded and a team can have as many as it wants.  At the start of the 2015 season, slightly more than 43 percent of the players in MLS are not U.S. or Canadian citizens. 

Encouraging teams to field U.S. or Canadian players has nothing to do with nationalism.  It’s practical.  The more Americans and Canadians the league can develop means more talent for their respective national teams.  And it’s the World Cup that drives people to the game of soccer.

Reasonable Salaries
You may actually make more money than some of the players on the field.  The average salary for a MLS player is $226,000.  On the other end of the spectrum, the average NBA player makes $4.5 million.

I don’t fault anyone for making as much money as they can.  Good for them.   Where the fault lies is with the owners.  Once an owner overpays for one player then all owners have to overpay.   That’s bad for business and it irks fans to no end.  The MLS’ salary cap has made their league idiot-proof (i.e. owner-proof).  You’ve got to love that.

Designated Players
There are players whose salaries are more aligned to what we expect from a professional athlete’s paycheck.  These wealthy footballers are called “Designated Players.”  This rule began in 2007 when David Beckham joined the league.  To further save the owners from themselves, teams can only have a certain number of designated players.

What makes designated players so awesome is they’re usually superstars on the tail end of their careers (or members of the U.S. national team).  While it’s not the same as seeing them in their prime, you’ll still get bragging rights for seeing Kaka and David Villa on a MLS pitch.

Supporters’ Shield
Like the NHL, Major League Soccer presents an award to the team with the best regular season record.  It’s called the Supporters’ Shield.  Los Angeles Galaxy and D.C. United are tied for most Supporters’ Shields with four. 

I like handing out an award to the team with the best record in the regular season.  We focus so much attention on championships that we fail to celebrate what an accomplishment it is to dominate the regular season.

American Accents
Major League Soccer borrows a lot from its European counterparts.  There are, however, a few major differences.  These differences make the game much more palatable for Americans. 

For one, the league has a playoff.  Most soccer leagues don’t.  This is a must since Americans love playoffs.  Only relying on the regular season to select a champion just doesn’t cut it for Yankees.

Second, the league is closed.  Teams can’t be regulated to a lower league or promoted from a lower league.  So no matter how awful your team is they won’t be kicked out of the MLS.  The idea of promotion and regulation is anathema to Americans even though it’s common in Europe.

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Frozen on Ice And A FAQ For Parents

by Noiz 27. May 2015 08:42

Frozen on Ice And A FAQ For Parents

In a promotional video for Disney on Ice presents Frozen, producer Nicole Feld gushes: “In our 35 year history of Disney on Ice we have been waiting for this film.”

You think!

Not only is Frozen the mouse ears’ top-grossing animated film of all time (which is saying something), but the story actually takes place on ice… well at least in the winter which is associated with ice.  Frozen certainly lends itself to the fabricated rime better than The Lion King or the Little Mermaid. 

In other words…

Frozen is the perfect fodder for an ice show.  It’s also why the show’s producer, Feld Entertainment Inc., sold 250,000 Disney on Ice Frozen tickets in one day. 

The Frozen tour is currently in Florida, but it has plans to visit 16 states, Canada, and Mexico before the end of March 2016.  At the rate in which they’re selling Frozen tickets this ice show might keep touring until 2116.

Now…

You probably have more than a few questions about Frozen the ice show.  You know what to expect from a movie but live events are an entirely different ballgame.  Don’t worry.  We’ve got your covered with a great little FAQ.  Below, Clickitticket answers all your questions about Disney on Ice presents Frozen.

In a nutshell, what’s the ice show like?
Disney on Ice Frozen is a mix of skating, acting, mascots, scenery, concert quality sound, stage lighting, and theatrical effects.  Some of the characters are just skaters in costumes—like Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff.  While others are clad in full-fledged mascot costumes—like Olaf and Sven.  

The show is like a musical only the stage is an ice rink and the actors skate from place to place instead of walking.  Also, the focus is on telling the story through skating not through singing or acting.

Does the ice show follow the movie?
Frozen the ice show does follow Frozen the movie… as best it can.  Obviously, producers had to change a few things to accommodate the transition from the silver screen to the Zambonied ice.

What about the music?  Will I hear “Let It Go?”
You will.  The ice show uses music from the movie including the ubiquitous “Let It Go.”  At most performances, when Elsa sings “Let It Go” she’s joined by the entire audience.  After all, everyone knows the lyrics.  We’ve all heard the song a million times.

Quick Facts About ‘Disney on Ice presents Frozen’….
>>The show runs about 90 minutes with a 15 to 20 minute intermission.
>>Besides evening shows, there are also late morning and matinees performances (in most cities).
>>Check with your local venue to determine if you need a ticket for your infant child.  The show itself collects tickets from everyone two and older.
>>There are Spanish-language performances.  Check the show’s Web site for more information.
>>Non-professional cameras are permitted but not video cameras.

How’s the skating?
I’ll be honest.  There are several parts of the show where the skating is fairly pedestrian and embellished by silly hand movements.  That’s not a knock on the skaters but on the choreography. 

There are skating routines like you’d see in the Olympics and even some pretty impressive group numbers.  You’ll get to enjoy jumps, spins, throws, and even a few flips.  Just don’t come to the show expecting full out, hardcore skating from start to finish.

How’s the acting?
You’re not watching God of Carnage or August: Osage County.  You’re watching a Disney on Ice show.  Due to the audience’s young age and the size of the venue, the acting is over exaggerated.  In other words, Kristoff is not played with subtlety. 

This type of acting can get a bit corny at times but it gets the job done.  Like most Disney on Ice shows, the focus is on the skating. 

What does it sound like?
To save money, and to make it easier on the skaters, all the sound is pre-recorded.  That includes the dialogue.  The characters on the ice don’t speak they just move their lips (most of the time).  This can be a bit disconcerting but the sound quality is high and the voice acting top notch. 

You mentioned “stage effects.”  Please elaborate.
Besides the dynamic lighting you’d expect from a major production, you’ll also be entertained by pyrotechnics, smoke, moving sleds, and snow.  Well, not actual snow but it looks real.

What is Sven like?
Sven is Kristoff’s reindeer.  He’s portrayed in Frozen on ice by two skaters in a reindeer mascot costume.  This makes Sven very cute and quite large.  The two skaters inside the mascot costume do a wonderful job of skating in unison and bringing Sven to life.  The reindeer is one of the highlights of the production. 

Unfortunately, the mascot costume for Olaf is not as stunning.  He looks more like a marshmallow man than a snowman.  His skating routine, however, steals the show.  You’ve got to love dancing seagulls.

Will Frozen scare my kids?
It might.  There are scary looking wolves, a bunch of green trolls, and several incidences of those aforementioned pyrotechnics.  Then there’s the ice monster.  He’s ferocious, huge, breathes smokes, and slinks over the ice.  All that stuff might be too much for the youngest members of your clan. 

How are the costumes?
The costumes are quite good and are definitely inspired by the movie.  Anna and Elsa look like their animated counterparts as do most of the other principles.  The regalia that deserve the most kudos belong to the citizens of Arendelle.  Their outfits are elaborate and detailed.

Is the show funny?
No. 

Is the show funny if you’re not old enough to cut your own steak?
Yes.

What about Mickey and Minnie?  Do they make an appearance?
Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse host the show.  You’ll also be treated to appearances by characters from Toy Story, The Lion King, and Finding Nemo as well as select Disney Princesses.  Instead of the entire cast skating onto the rink at the end of the show, it’s Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, Sven, and the previously mentioned Disney characters.

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The Decemberists Tour And Five Other Things You Need To Know About The Band

by Noiz 19. May 2015 19:19

The Decemberists Tour And Five Other Things You Need To Know About The Band

The Decemberists are currently touring North America.  Their trek resumes May 22 at the Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend, Oregon.  That night they’ll be joined by Spoon and The Districts.

Their robust itinerary includes a bunch of amphitheaters and pavilions as well as several festivals: the Sasquatch Music Festival, the Free Press Summer Festival, the Newport Folk Festival, and the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival.

In fact, the last dates on their itinerary are the two weekends of the Austin City Limits Festival.  The Decemberists tour will be in central Texas between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4 and then again between Oct. 9 and Oct. 11.

Fans should also look for The Decemberists at Red Rocks on May 27, New York City on June 5, and Boston on Sept. 23.

Spoon and The Districts aren’t the only acts set to support The Decemberists.  Calexico, Courtney Barnett, Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, Father John Misty, Lady Lamb, Lucius, Shovels & Rope, and Wartime Blues will also spend time on the marquee.

The Decemberists are 15 years old, but they are differently not like other bands of that age.  Below, Clickitticket enumerates five things you absolutely need to know about The Decemberists.  The following five tidbits will be illuminating to both new and longtime fans of the bands.

>>The Decemberists Have Changed
Time changes us and it changes alt indie bands too.  Certainly, The Decemberists are a different band than they were 12, 10, or even 5 years ago. 

Their “change,” however, isn’t for the mere sake of changing nor is it a decline masquerading behind the euphuism of “change.”

The band’s change is much more organic.

They’ve matured and they’ve also encountered some real life obstacles. 

Colin Meloy’s oldest child is autistic and his education has taken up a lot of the frontman’s time.

Meanwhile, Jenny Conlee was diagnosed with breast cancer that has thankfully gone into remission.

What this all means is the 2015 Decemberists are different; they’re a wiser bunch with their priorities in order.  Fortunately, this has had a positive effect on their music.

>>The Decemberists Have An Affinity For Oregon
Even fans that have only been around since The Hazards of Love days know that the band is from Portland, Oregon.  Few know that The Decemberists have a real affinity for the state. 

Their 2015 schedule still contains four concerts in Oregon and just this past March they performed in Portland.

There are a lot of bands that haven’t visited Oregon five times in a decade much less a year.

On top of that…

The Decemberists have two shows scheduled in Washington and another in Idaho—both Oregon adjacent.  And for what it’s worth, they’re playing the State Theatre in Portland, Maine on July 29.

BTW…

Meloy owns a barn with the longest single-piece beam in the state. 

>>The Decemberists Get It!
There are smart bands, wise bands, intelligent bands, and even witty bands.  But few bands, regardless of their mental acumen, actually get “IT.” 

Get what?

By getting “IT” I mean they understand their relationship with their audience.

Fans want their bands to grow creatively and explore new musical frontiers… in the studio.  But in concert fans want them to play all their biggest hits.

A lot of bands, especially those as old as The Decemberists, fight this unwritten contract.  They want fans to only care about their new stuff (see Smashing Pumpkins).

The Decemberists are not one of those bands.

“I think about ourselves: do people want us to keep having “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” to finish every set? And I guess they do.   There’s a certain obligation that you have to satisfy, and I think that’s why people continue to come to our shows.  We’re mindful that there is a tacit agreement; we’re going to suck it up.” — Colin Meloy

The first track off their new album also discusses this relationship. 

In “The Singer Addresses His Audience," Meloy croons:

We know, we know, we belong to ya
We know you threw your arms around us
In the hopes we wouldn't change
But we had to change some

The song, as well as the band’s attitude, isn’t mean spirited or angry.  It’s honest (and perhaps a little cathartic). 

If they didn’t write and perform songs like “The Singer Addresses His Audience" then the pressure to do stuff like end every show with “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” would ruin them.

>>The Decemberists Are A Great Live Band
You may not associate The Decemberists with great live music but they are actually quite amazing in concert.  Their prowess on stage surpasses that of their contemporaries—Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie, Feist, and The National.

Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect at a Decemberists concert:

...For a little folk band from the Rose City they really know how to rock. 

...If you have Decemberists tickets expect about a two hour show.

...The audience will be mostly hipsters in their 30s and 40s.

...Meloy is a master at the art of bantering with the audience.

...Warm up your vocal chords.  There are plenty of opportunities to sing at Decemberists shows.

...The band is known to have a whale puppet come on stage during “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.”

...There will probably be confetti.

>>The Decemberists Are At The Top Of Their Game
From the summer of 2011 to March of 2013 The Decemberists were on hiatus.  Their first album after returning is What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.  It may be one of the best works they’ve ever released.

That’s almost unheard of in alternative rock circles.  Unless you’re U2, in your 15th year you’re making average records aimed solely at your core audiences.

Not The Decemberists. 

They made a great album anchored by the singles “Make You Better” and “The Wrong Year.”

Don’t believe me?

Punknews.org said that in What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World The Decemberists have “crafted one of, if not their best album ever a full decade and a half into their career.”

Paste Magazine says “What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World is another chapter in the already punctuated saga of one of rock’s best modern lyricists and his talented band.”

What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World Reviews
... Rolling Stone – Four out of five stars
... The Telegraph – Four out of five stars
... All Music – Four out of five stars
... Pop Matters – Eight out of ten stars
... Spin Magazine – 7 out of 10
... Amazon Customer Reviews – Four and half stars out of five
... iTunes Customer Reviews – Four and half stars out of five

The album is not without its faults.  Some think it’s a little too long and not ambitious enough.  Others, and this seem to be the bulk of the ire against the work, don’t like the fact that the band has changed.

The album peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200.

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